January 25, 2011

Happy Meals for Everyone!

Let me be upfront and clear: As a parent, I have (at times) grown to loathe McDonald's. Don't get me wrong; about once every 6-8 months, something in me just starts to crave a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and some of those salty fries. But that doesn't happen very often. So when my children make their weekly plea for that blissful culinary delicacy known as the "Happy Meal", they are usually met with a wall of resistance. I have at least 8-10 automatic alternatives at the ready at all times. (And of course, Chick-fil-A is #1 on the list.) But I'm no dummy. I know it's not those grotesque processed mystery meat nuggets that they're actually hungering for. It's the prize that comes with it! (Can I get an "Amen!"?) This is part of being a child and part of being a parent - and it's not about the eating right. When you boil it down, it's actually a "War of the Wants".

So last night I see on the news that a California mom has filed a lawsuit against McDonald's for deceptively marketing their unhealthy food to kids by dangling the toy in front of them. [Allow me to pause for a moment before I proceed with my initial reaction] Are you kidding me!? As a parent, I understand the frustration with the fact that fast food isn't piping my children with the nutrients that they need. I also get aggravated knowing that it's not ultimately the food they want, but the toy. But here's the thing lady: this isn't about deception or nutrients. This is about YOU stepping up and parenting! When asked by an ABC reporter, "You're her parent. Isn't it your job to tell your kids 'No'?" Her response was, "I DO tell them no, and this is where the challenge begins. I can tell them 'No' all day long, but they're still convinced that they've really got to have this toy." I would really love to put this lady's own words in front of her own face: "this is where the challenge begins". You're absolutely right. And the challenge - the battle that we fight daily - is teaching our kids that not everything they WANT is what they NEED.

I've known for quite a long time now that Jesus makes this clear. But the reason I knew this in the first place is because my Momma and Daddy taught me! The world is a constant commercial. Are we going to sue everyone? My kids watch the Disney Channel. It's owned by Disney, programmed by Disney, and advertised on by Disney. They don't make money showing Handy Manny or The Suite Life of Zach & Cody - they make money because they advertise Disney World in the middle of the show. And Disney owns ABC and ESPN as well. So it's Disney's fault that I really want to go to the Super Bowl? Jerks! Do you see my point? Not only is this simply advertising, it's a free market. Quite frankly, I don't WANT McDonald's to make the Quarter Pounder with Cheese healthier. Because when I do actually crave one once a year, I want it to taste like that greasy, nasty, juicy cheeseburger that it is. I know those fries are not helping my cholesterol or my children's growth patterns. It's FAST FOOD! 

And look at this from another angle. This is a picture [ABOVE] that I have to pull out sometimes when my kids start complaining about not wanting pork roast and carrots. Yes, it happens. Do you think the parents of these children would consider suing McDonald's for supplying their kids not only with some nuggets and fries, but a TOY to go along with it? Can you even imagine or comprehend the thought? Isn't this more about perspective & laziness than justice?

Here's the thing: As a parent maybe it's my job to turn OFF the stupid TV more often, get my butt in the kitchen, and fix my child something that's actually good for them. While I am still fairly certain that Chick-fil-A puts an addictive chemical in those waffle fries, I can't prove it. So my lawsuit will have to hold off for another day. And I would certainly like to hold Krispy Kreme responsible for that stupid HOT*NOW sign as well. We all know that there's a tractor beam in the sign that forces your car to turn into the parking lot. It doesn't even matter if it's 2:00 in the afternoon and you're not hungry - it calls out to you: HOT! NOW! Should we all get together and sue their deep-fried pants off? I don't think so.

This lady claims that money is not her motive. I have no reason not to believe her. But I would suggest that whether she realizes it or not, maybe part of her subconscious motive is that parenting is hard work - it's a CONSTANT BATTLE - and sometimes we just want someone to make it a little easier for us. And all I know to say to that is, "Sorry. It's not gonna happen."

*I would also like to point out a "Thanks" to McDonald's for offering alternatives to my kids like Chocolate Milk and Apple Slices. Jerks!

January 20, 2011

Why NOW?

Resolve. A determined and pointed decision that something must be done. 
Urgency. A determined and pointed decision that something must be done NOW!

How are you living? How are you praying? In 1 Peter 2:11, the Apostle pleads with us as followers of Christ, "I urge you as sojourners and exiles..." Are you living like you belong to this world? Or are you living like you're just passing through - an exile from a distant land, longing to be taken back home? 

How did you begin this new year? Did you make resolutions? Resolve? And if you did, the big question is, "Why?" WHY do we do this? I think it's for one very simple reason: We know that something needs to change, and we know that the time for that to happen is NOW! The reason you need to start doing something about your health is because unless you're taking care of this body that God has given you, you're killing it. The reason to quit smoking is because your lungs don't need to suffer another moment. The reason you need to finally take some action about your debt is because that hole you're digging just keeps getting deeper. The reason you need to turn off that cursed TV and spend some time in the floor with your kids is because your window of opportunity to speak love and truth into their lives is closing much quicker than you realize. As Solomon implied, there is a season for all things. And I'm here to tell you, the time for you to make change in your life is NOW!

I'm praying that God would breathe a fresh wind of encouragement into your life today. Remember that "...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come!" As a Christ-follower, every single day of your life God desires to renew you, strengthen you, and transform you. Take hold of these promises! Dig your roots into Him! He will give you the courage and strength you need. 

So, why not wait until next week? Why bother yourself? Why NOW? 
Simple: You're not promised tomorrow.

January 19, 2011


WHY? That's the question. It's never the 1st question or the starting point, but it has to be the LAST question. And it has to be asked over and over and over again. You have to come back to it just like a diabetic has to check insulin levels. It can't be answered one time and then left to die a lonely death on a shelf. Like it or not, WHY is a 3-letter rising force to be reckoned with. Avoid the question - ignore it long enough - and it will begin to slowly eat the life out of WHAT and HOW. They're defenseless against WHY! 

We've been doing it this way for years! WHY?
You just can't do it that way. WHY?
We can't just sit by and do nothing! WHY?
Please consider spending your time and money on ________. WHY?
He's crazy! There is no way that is ever going to work! WHY?

WHY isn't very scientific or mathematic. (Those guys prefer WHAT and HOW and WHEN.) But WHY isn't necessarily hung up on matters of the mind - it's often honed in like a laser on engaging your heart! WHY compels people. As Andy Stanley writes in Visioneering, "WHY translates into urgency and incentive." When we try to tell people WHAT should be, they need to know WHY. Get it?

Could be = WHAT, WHEN & HOW
Should be = WHY!

Stop driving home the same way every single day. 
Stop wearing that same shirt every Tuesday. 
Stop eating the same thing for lunch in your office.
Stop living your life like an automated robot. 
Stop accepting everything they tell you at face value and demand to know WHY!

Be the one on the team, in the board meeting, at the staff retreat, in that next brainstorming session to shock the crap out of everyone by raising your hand and asking, "WHY?" Be the one to ram a stick through the spokes before everyone keeps cruising down that same hill on autopilot for so long that you're not even paying attention to the scenery anymore. WAKE UP!

And if you read this and you're left wondering WHY - WHY should I care? WHY should I be the one to question? WHY me? WHY now? If you start there, I think you're on the right track.

January 17, 2011

Give Me An Opportunity!

We're 2 weeks into our series in Nehemiah at The Brook. As many times as I've read this story and memoir, one thing stands out to me that never struck me before. As Nehemiah learns of the destruction and devastation in his homeland - as he's broken to the point of mourning, weeping, fasting, and praying - he ultimately asks the Lord for 2 things: that God would hear the prayers of those who are seeking Him, and that God would grant him an opportunity. I encourage you to take 5 minutes and read Nehemiah 1. Essentially what Nehemiah cries out to the Lord for is that He would hear his heart - that his heart had been broken for the things that break the Father's heart - and that God would give him an opportunity to do something about it. Give me an opportunity!

We're good at praying for miracles - praying for God to take action or to do something on our behalf. But many times when we beg and plead for a miracle, maybe what we should be asking for is an opportunity. If you look at the lives of Joseph, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Esther - I could go on - you see a pattern: While these people all spent countless hours (even days, weeks, months) on their faces in prayer, one of the key things they were asking for was an opportunity. The faithful don't just want God to intervene - they want Him to intervene IN and THROUGH their lives - to be used by God to change the world around them. They didn't just want God's solution; they wanted to be part of the solution.

What's is God disrupting your heart over in this world?
Is He breaking your heart for the things that break His heart?
Do you see the change that needs to take place in your neighborhood? Your workplace? Your school? In the hearts and lives of your friends?

[Please, think long & hard about that last one.]

If so, are you asking God for an opportunity? 
Asking Him to ready, prepare, equip, and USE you to BE the solution?
He will. If you ask Him.

January 13, 2011

ALONE With Jesus

Over the last few weeks, the Lord has had to discipline me over something in my life. When this happens, it can often be painful and ugly - I just want it to end! For me, the Lord speaks to me through my stomach. It's as if the Holy Spirit rips all sense of peace out of my guts and leaves me completely barren. Like I said, it's painful. And our tendency when we begin to experience something like this - our initial reaction - is to desperately try and find someone who can empathize with us. We want someone to say, "I understand". And more than that, we want someone to tell us how long it's going to last, and what the point is, and what it is that ultimately God is trying to tell us. Someone! But if I'm being honest with you, this is not the way that the Lord works.

I read a word this morning in "My Utmost for His Highest" that speaks to this. Oswald Chambers, in talking about our solitude and "getting alone with God" makes this statement: "If you are going on with God, the only thing that is clear to you, and the only thing God intends to be clear, is the way He deals with your own soul. Your brother's sorrows and perplexities are an absolute confusion to you. We imagine we understand where the other person is, until God gives us a dose of the plague of our own hearts. There are whole tracts of stubbornness and ignorance to be revealed by the Holy Spirit in each of us, and it can only be done when Jesus gets us alone." Totally ALONE! Take a moment and read through that again.

Understand this up front: the discipline of the hand of God on your life can and will be an incredibly lonely thing. This is not because He desires you to feel like He's abandoned you - it's because the root of that discipline has to do with you abandoning Him. At some point in time, we make a decision - we say a word or think a thought or lust after the worthless - and our heart strays from the path of holiness and righteousness that Christ intends us to walk. If your heart truly desires to walk that path, then your heart has to be disciplined back onto it. I have to be reminded of the condition of my soul before I met the One who saved and redeemed it. As Chambers said, God gives us a "dose of the plague of our own hearts". I can't temper this with someone else's sympathy. They know nothing of the wretchedness that I face when I stray from Christ. They can only know their own heart. But Christ - our Savior who has "in every respect been tempted as we are..." - He sees and knows what's breaking our heart. And He can be the ONLY one we run to and cling to and cry out to during this time of discipline. 

When you read through the Psalms you find David in this position often. Psalm 51 is the prime example, as he cries out, "...let the bones you have broken rejoice." And if you are His child, there will come a time when you feel like He is breaking your bones! But you can find hope and joy and yes - even peace - when this happens. Because "the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes those He accepts as His children." The writer of Hebrews asks the question: "Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined." This is proof of parenthood! And to go further, when I was disciplined by my parents I never ran to my brother and asked, "Why are they doing this? How long must I endure this pain?" First off, I was normally being disciplined for something I probably did TO my brother. But the point is, only I could face this discipline. Only me.

I encourage you and challenge you - do NOT grow weary and lose heart! When the Lord puts His hand on you it's because He loves you, desires to refine you, and wants to affirm and engrain deep within your heart and soul the precious knowledge that "You are MINE!" What could bring more peace than that?

January 11, 2011

Vision Begins With Brokenness

Vision. Do you have it? A dream or view of how things should be? The way I see it, if you're a child of God - a follower of Jesus Christ - vision will come. God doesn't call us His own and then allow us a free pass on being disturbed and broken over the things in this world that He believes need to be made new. Are you asking God to give you the eyes to see things the way He sees them? Are you praying and hungering for this divine perspective? Do you have vision?

Nehemiah had vision. He was broken over what he saw going on in his homeland and with his people. He was moved to the point of weeping, mourning, fasting and praying. I think Nehemiah was like Isaiah: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" When you see God - when He gives you a glimpse into His perspective - it will mess you up! That's what happened with Nehemiah. God pulled back the veil for a moment. But the thing I think we should take note of is Nehemiah's response - what he does in response to his brokenness. He prays. And he confesses his sin.

Allow me to boil this down to the simple core: If we desire to be used by God for His purposes in this world, we will have to broken over the things that break His heart. If I long to see things through His eyes - if I want to have the "mind of Christ" - my heart has to be in fellowship with Him. Nehemiah agreed with God about the truth - he called his sin exactly that: SIN. He stopped making excuses, blaming other people, and said, "Lord, my heart isn't right. Purify me!" Vision begins with brokenness. 

When God desires to USE us, He almost always has to BREAK us first.

January 6, 2011

...for the city!

Madison, Alabama. That's where I live. It's where my neighborhood is located, my kids go to school, the YMCA is where I workout, where my son plays soccer, and where my wife works. It's also where The Brook calls home - the place where our church family gathers each week to fellowship, worship, and be together. And make no mistake, Jesus called us to reach out to "Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" for the sake of the Gospel. He has called us - His church - to reach the nations. But the place we go every single day - the place we work, live, play, worship, shop, study, and call "home" - is our "Jerusalem". This is our city. And this year our desire at The Brook is that the Lord would change us, transform us, and use us..."for the city"!

This is not what God is calling all churches to do. We're all different. Many churches will make enormous strides this year globally to take the Gospel to people in other countries. Mission trips will change lives - of those who minister and those who are ministered to. And we are not writing those things off either. But for 2011, our desire is to see Jesus Christ be made famous in Madison, Huntsville, and throughout our entire community. We know that there are people next door to us and who work with us who are lost, hurting, and in need of knowing that the love of Christ can change their lives. We are being called to light the darkness right here at home. This brings up one really important detail.

Our desire, motive, and hope can NEVER become that The Brook would be famous - that we would be "made known". Our heartbeat and passion must be the CHRIST be made famous - that HIS Name would be made known. And if anyone or anything else is made famous, we pray that it's our CITY - that people all over the world would begin to hear about Madison, Alabama - because of what God is doing here. Our prayer is that through the power of the Holy Spirit, moving in and through the hearts and lives of God's people, our city would be changed. Our friends, neighbors, co-workers and classmates - changed by and for the Kingdom of God!

What would you dare to pray that God would do this year..."for the city"?
How powerfully could the Lord use your life..."for the city"?
And will we remember that God's heartbeat is people...and so His heart beats..."for the city"?

Dream with us! What do you desire to see God do..."for the city"?